The 2014 Green Venue Survey and Report surveyed 16 of the largest convention centers in North America, representing over 5,000 annual events. Of those centers, 69% reported that less than 20% of event organizers discuss “greening” during the planning process. This lack of conversation creates many opportunities for meeting planners, venues, DMOs and vendors to incorporate sustainability into their sales and planning conversations for win-win performance and positive PR stories.
Here are 10 questions to get you started:
1. Do you have a Sustainability Manager or dedicated sustainability lead?
Ask this question to all your key vendors.
- If they have a dedicated point person for sustainability this shows their commitment to improving their own performance and assisting their planner partners in doing the same. Additionally, this person can be your “subject matter expert” and will be ecstatic to help you.
2. Do you donate food?
- Ask your catering partners.
- Food waste is an international headline. According the EPA, approximately 40% of food in the U.S. goes to waste, the equivalent of 33 million pounds. At the same time, millions of Americans are hungry and malnourished (1 out of 6 American struggle to get enough to eat). Your catering partner should have an ongoing food donation program in place. If they don’t—here’s your chance to save the day!
3. Can you print on post-consumer recycled paper?
- Ask your printer and anyone supplying you paper (venue, registration company, etc.)
- The age of the mobile app is here, but the marketing, planning and execution of events still requires a significant amount of paper. Printing your marketing and conference materials on post-consumer recycled paper means more trees to sequester carbon and create healthy ecosystems and habitats! If you use FSC or FSI certified paper, this is even better!
4. Do you have recycling bins next to every landfill bin in your facility?
- Ask this to your venue and hotel partners.
- The only effective way to encourage recycling is to provide attendees/guests a CHOICE. If there are recycling bins, but they are not connected to or directly next to the landfill bin they are ineffective. Your attendees notice when there are no recycling options and for the ones that care, this is a turn off. Likewise, when attendees can “do good” easily, they feel good about themselves and their experience at your event.
5. Can you print my signage on recyclable, cardboard substrate instead of foam core?
- As your general services contractor or signage provider.
- Printing on cardboard substrate (Freeman calls this substrate “honeycomb board”) creates signage that dimples less, so you can save money by using more signage year-to-year, and when you can’t use it anymore it can go directly into the cardboard or recycling stream. Foam core is made from PVC, causing issues during manufacturing as well as end-of-life processing.
6. Can you create a plan to power down all the non-essential equipment during non-show hours? o
- Ask your AV and vendor partners.
- Registration laptops, cyber cafes, education room projectors, sponsored plasmas, decorative lighting, escalators, expo hall lights…in some cases the show is over for the day, but these energy-intensive lights and equipment remain powered on. A simple question to get the conversation started can get your conservation started!
7. Can you help me donate my excess conference materials and/or exhibitor donations to local non-profit groups?
- Ask your DMO and venue partners.
- You have 15,000 things to worry about and DMOs and venues are experts and ambassadors of their community. They should not only be able to provide you with a list of local non-profits that could benefit, specifically, from the unique leftover materials for your show, but also be able to help coordinate collection, storage and pick up of those materials to support waste diversion and community giving/legacies.
8. Do you participate in a formal soap/amenity donation program (Clean The World, Global Soap Project, partnership with local charity)?
- Ask your DMO and hotel partners.
- Hotel soaps and amenities are filling up our landfills (350 tons per year!), but they can be recycled and reprocessed to bring life saving soap to international and domestic communities in need. (www.cleantheworld.org, www.globalsoap.org)
9. Do you have third-party sustainability certifications?
- Ask all your key event partners, especially venues and hotels.
- Like having a sustainability lead, third-party certifications demonstrate commitment to improving performance and better meeting the needs of environmentally savvy planners. Over 8,000 hotels now participate in the Trip Advisor Green Leaders program (which is free). Other hotel certifications include LEED, Green Key Meetings and APEX/ASTM. Likewise, your venue partners may also be LEED, ISO 14001 or APEX/ASTM certified.
10. Do you compost back-of-house kitchen organics?
- Ask your catering partner.
- Composting front-of-house can be difficult because event participants are not always educated on what is compostable (and let’s be honest, PLA looks like plastic, so it’s tricky!). However, a significant amount of organic material is generated in the kitchen before the food is ever served (carrot and fruit peels, pepper tops, rinds). Your catering partner can divert that material from landfill (where it would cause the production of methane gas, which is more than 20 times more harmful than carbon dioxide) and send it to a facility where it can be used to generate energy and/or turned into nutrient-rich soil amendments, which help grow healthier food and avoid land erosion. Trust us, it’s good stuff!
If you are a meeting planner interested in making your event more sustainable or a DMO interested in marketing your cities “green” offering, please contact Cara Unterkofler at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.gviewadvisors.com.